Over the centuries, man has continued to develop new means of torture: the leap from the guillotine to the electric chair is by no means short. Today we tell you about a torture that too often goes quietly in the history books, probably for theexcessive cruelty that distinguishes him.
There poena cullei is a Latin term translatable into “punishment of the sack” and was intended for those who they were guilty of patricideor the act of killing one’s parent.
“The penalty of patricide, as prescribed by our ancestors, is that the guilty be beaten with rods stained with his blood, and then be stitched up in a sack with a dog, a rooster, a viper and a monkey, and the purse thrown into the depths of the sea“, it would have wrote Erennio Modestinowell-known Roman jurist of the 3rd century AD
That’s right: the poena cullei it involved introducing the criminal into a large sack that was subsequently sewn together with a dog, a monkey, a chicken and a snake. The whole thing ends with the abandonment of the death trap in a river. In short, the Romans, resorting to this macabre practice, had the certainty that the condemned would die by drowning, by the brute force of a chimpanzee, or by the bite of a snake.
However, today we don’t have no archaeological elements that sheds light on the practice: imagine what a surprise if a group of scholars come across an old bag with the skeleton of a man and his wild company inside. Everything we know is thanks to written sources, of dubious veracity.
The description of Modestine cited above, for example, comes from a book on the history of law published in 1932. This refers to a summary ordered by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th century AD, 200 years after the disappearance of the jurist. Between translations and temporally displaced narratives, you have to take this information with a grain of salt.
[William Hogarth/Wellcome Collection]